4 things to watch for during the international break
Kuala Lumpur: The October international break marks three months to the AFC Asian Cup 2019 UAE, and the participating teams are ramping up their preparations.
As we edge ever closer to January's continental showpiece, the 24 AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 participants continue their preparations with the latest round of international friendlies taking place across the world this week.
Exciting call-ups, young and old, tactical decisions in the making and intriguing clashes all await over the next 10 days. So, join us as we take a look at some of the most interesting things to watch out for this international break.
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1996 winner in action
Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has raised many eyebrows after calling-up 41-year-old Hussein Abdulghani into the squad that will face Brazil and Iraq in preparation for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The left-back was part of the Green Falcons’ squad that lifted the continental trophy 22 years ago. In fact, he played in the final and was sent-off seven minutes before the end of regular time.
Should Abdulghani impress Pizzi enough to earn a place in Saudi Arabia's AFC Asian Cup squad, the 23 years between his two appearances in the competition would mark a new Asian record; one that would be hard to beat.
New-look Socceroos get first taste of UAE
The reigning champions descend into the UAE three months before the start of the AFC Asian Cup for a short training camp followed by a friendly match against Kuwait in Kuwait.
Graham Arnold’s 25-man squad sees a trio of young players in line to make their debut; Thomas Deng, Awer Mabil and Denis Genreau have all received first Socceroos call-ups and will look to prove they deserve a place in the side’s next trip to the UAE in January.
Tactical shifts for the hosts
In the most recent round of friendlies, Alberto Zaccheroni’s UAE side were beaten 2-0 by Trinidad and Tobago before beating Laos 3-0 five days later.
Although their two opponents were of contrasting statures, Trinidad are ranked 90th while Laos are 179th, the markedly different performances have been equally attributed to a change in formation.
The Italian coach, who led Japan to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup title playing a back three, ditched his favourite formation for a four-at-the-back setup. As the Whites prepare to face Honduras and Venezuela, fans will be keen to find out whether Zaccheroni reverts to his old ways or embraces the formation which seemed to work better last month.
Who wins Bangabandhu Cup?
The fifth edition of the friendly Bangabadhu Cup concludes on October 12 in Bangladesh, with the hosts facing Palestine in the semi-finals on the 10th and AFC Asian Cup debutants the Philippines vying for the other spot in the final against Tajikistan a day earlier.
The six-nation friendly tournament also featured Laos and reigning champions Nepal. And with an eye on the AFC Asian Cup in less than three months, Palestine and the Philippines will both be looking to collect some morale-boosting silverware.
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